The 4YFN (4 Years From Now) event takes place in Barcelona every year in parallel and with collaboration with the MWC (Mobile World Congress). This year this start-ups’ global meeting was held from 25 – 27 February. As in recent years, these innovative organisations meet to discuss which technology they believe will make a difference in the near future.
Over these three days, stage presentations from leading influencers, workshops, competitions, exhibitions, networking, etc. take place on a range of topics including those belonging to the world of mobility and transport.
UIC was invited to participate through its Rail System Department Senior Advisor Mr David Villalmanzo, who spoke at a round table during the Agora Stage of the event on the Hyperloop initiatives named “The Future of Transport: Hyperloop End2End Vision”, moderated by Ms Inés Oliveira Head of TrenLab in the presence of academic and member of S2R scientific committee Professor Juan de Dios Sanz from the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), the Renfe Strategy and Innovation department representative Mr Jorge Marcos, Chief of Innovation and Project Development, and Mr Juan Vicén, a co-founder and current CMO of Zeleros, one of the current start-ups evolving design and concepts for the topic.
During the course of this session, UIC highlighted that the differences between the current railway systems and the still to be developed Hyperloop initiatives could translate into a profitable cooperation not only in terms of intermodality or interconnected services, but also on testing together services and technological advances that could benefit both worlds.
In addition, UIC explained that as a neutral worldwide platform in the transport world, it is currently a mediator between all these initiatives to check their progress on the challenges ahead and the feasibility of their operations, always aiming for a collaborative frame. Whilst the compatibility of the different Hyperloop solutions could previously ensure the interoperability of these designs between each other, a task where the setting up of a pre-standardisation frame and a regulatory one is still needed before going deeper into the development of corresponding standardisation or evolved technical specifications of the products and services.
Renfe, a UIC member, presented Zeleros as key to the TrenLab initiative created to accelerate the activities of this start-up. This reflects recognition from the railway undertaking community, which is starting to look to this new mode of transport, and how and in what ways it can share knowledge to start-ups to implement and operate it.
Zeleros announced the start of the construction in Sagunto (Spain) of a two-kilometre test section that is going to be important to prove the concept acknowledging the biggest challenges and next steps they have for the future. One of the most important could be to build and test a full-size model on a full-size tube, but that may well take place outside Europe.
Mr Sanz, as a qualified S2R scientific committee member, also made a reference to the challenges as well as the opportunities of Hyperloop in general and for the railway sector in particular, and which is the current path of development that is already being taken in the European Union and other countries. Moreover, the European Union’s regulatory approach may make it somewhat weaker in the short term for this kind of innovation but perhaps more robust in the longer term.
All alluded to the many opportunities at this moment between the railway community and this new disruptive means of transport to make new and more specific progress on its feasibility.